tv [untitled] May 15, 2012 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
in a few moments, the inquiry into the relationship between the british media and politicians. here's from the former communications director for then prime minister tony blair. in about three hours, a hearing on the cost of hiv/aids drugs. after that, the senate aging committee looks at ways to help unemployed old eer workers. later, a pentagon briefing that includes an update on the oxygen system in the f-22 stealth fighter. >> when people are saying to him, don't take the vice presidency.
right now you are the most -- you are a powerful majority leader. don't take the vice president. you won't have any power. johnson says, power is where power goes, meaning i can make power in any situation. his whole life, nothing in his life previously makes that seem like he's boasting because that's exactly what he had done all his life. >> sunday night, the conclusion of our conversation with robert caro on the passage of power, volume four in the years of lyndon johnson. his multivolume biography of the 36th president. sunday night on c-span's "q&a." >> a former communications director for british prime minister tony blair testified monday that during the 1997 election, there was no deal for mr. blair to be supported by rupert murdoch's newspaper "the sun." alastair campbell was questioned for a second time by a panel
questioning the ethical practices of the media. also prosecutors in the case charged rebekah brooks, the former head of mr. murdoch's news corp. newspaper unit with conspiring to obstruct justice. the first criminal action in the investigation. this is a little more than 2 1/2 hours. >> this afternoon's witness is mr. campbell, please. mr. campbell, you are still on oath from your hearing on the 13th of november. i told you you'd be back, yes? you provided us kindly with a
second statement dated the 30th of april of this year. and you confirm its contents is true, do you, mr. campbell? >> yes. i'm going to deal with this by way of theme, if i may, mr. campbell. first of all, mr. blair hiring you in 1994, we have one version in your diary. another version which is very similar in mr. blair's book. the journey, page 75. he considered you as part of a short list in discussion with mr. mandelson. do you remember that? >> no, i wasn't involved in that discussion. >> right. it's unlikely given they were wondering whether you were the right person. and mr. blair said he wanted a tabloid person and thought alastair campbell would be the best. did he discuss that with you in terms of the needs for a tabloid person? >> no, what he said to me when he finally approached me was that he wanted somebody that was
strategic, that understood the press and that would be able to do the job he wanted done. so i don't recall that being particularly he wanted somebody who was from the tabloids, but he wanted somebody who knew that world. >> by that stage, of course, you'd been political editor of the mirror for a number of years, hadn't you? >> i had been but at that time i was editor on today. which was then owned by news. >> according to mr. blair, i wanted -- i thought he was good. what i got was a genius. not asking you to comment on, but the hard knot is obviously some attribute which would be desirable in that place, wouldn't it? >> i think it's possible for somebody who is not necessarily a hard nut to do part of that job but i certainly think that the way the press and the media
were developing, you had to be pretty robust. and not shy of engaging in difficult debate. >> in effect, you were head hunted. there were discussions with mr. blair in province, in mid-august. you talked half the night alone with you and did the deal. he said i gave -- that's mr. blair -- gave what assurances i could on peter. do you remember anything about that? >> yeah, i was -- i mean, he asked me to do the job. i said no a couple of times, and then i -- he asked me again, and i went on holiday and said i'd think about it. then he turned up on holiday. one of the concerns i had was actually that there would be two rival media operations going on. and i wanted assurances that wasn't going to happen.
>> mr. blair says he was already anxious about gordon's people. is that the rival you are referring to? >> no, i meant when you talked about peter, i meant whether peter mandelson would, in a sense, de facto, want to do the job that tony blair was asking me to do. as it happens, although peter and i had our ups and downs from time to time, by and large, most of the time we worked well together. in relation to gordon's people there was a sense he had his own -- his own team, his own operation. i am very much a team player. and i want it to be clear that i'd be able to on the communications side of things to lead that team. >> nice portraits of you and mr. mandelson. peter would slip into the castle through a secret passageway and by nimble footwork and -- cleave his way to the throne room. >> this is tony's book?
>> yes. and you, meanwhile, alastair would be an old battering ram destroying the castle gates and neither boiling pitch nor wind-forced doors would keep him out. that's not bad, is it? >> yeah, well -- >> he had great clanking balls as well. >> right. >> let's move on. did you sign a confidentiality agreement when you took this post in 1994 or subsequently in 1997? >> i can't -- i don't think i did. i signed -- i mean, i was covered from 1997 by the official secrets act. i can't remember if i signed a confidentiality agreement in opposition. >> in 1997, after the first of may, you entered downing street. can you remember whether you were vetted or not? >> i was.
>> can you remember when you were approximately? >> i can't remember exactly when, but i can remember being told early on i would have to be. i mean, for example, very early in tony blair's first -- we were very big into the northern ireland situation. that was obvious. i was very much a part of that. so i can't remember exactly when -- i remember being interviewed in my office. i could probably find out a date for you, if i may be in one of those large number of books that you have on your desk there, but i can remember being told early on that i would have to go through what they call the dv process. >> yes. it might have been said that that was owing to the circumstances in which you immediately found yourself, namely close to documents relating to northern ireland? >> no, i think it was just assumed that i would have to be because of the -- in the transition, the their had been these discussions with robin
butler who was at the time the cabinet secretary. jonathan powers but going to be chief of staff. i was going to be press secretary. i think it was assumed we would be involved in all the kind of sensitive policy areas that tony blair was going to be taking charge of. so, for example, we were very quickly we were president of the european union. there were lots of nato issues going on. so i think there was an assumption from the word go that i would be. >> i think what i was trying to ascertain. it may be very difficult to differentiate this, whether there was a reasonable principle which caused you to be vetted or a series of obvious circumstances which rendered it desirable. i'm not sure it's possible to say which, is it? >> i think it was the former. i think it was the former. i think there was -- i think it was made clear to jonathan powell and me that we would have to go through that process.
>> okay. the next is the murdoch press when you look at paragraph nine of your statement, which is our page 07 -- sorry 00795. >> yeah. >> in essence you explain that it was a neutralization strategy, but you ended up doing well the better than that. it sums it up, doesn't it? >> yep. >> the reasons from your perspective are pretty obvious. evisceration by the murdoch press during the -- years linger over the 2002 election results. cause and effect could never be clearly established. is that right? >> yep. >> and then the iconic status of the sun. did you feel in 1994 to 1997 that the sun did occupy such a status or not? >> no, not really. i think they very clefrlly marketed themselves as having such a status.
and i think that -- i mean, i say elsewhere in my statement about there was a kind of sense of hierarchy in which paperses were more important than others. and i think "the sun," i wouldn't call it iconic, but it was a significant player. and i think within the media marketplace, rupert murdoch then had probably within the press a greater share and greater power than perhaps he does now because of all the changes that have happened with television and internet, social media and so forth. >> put another way, was it particularly important for you, either to neutralize "the sun" or best to win it over, even if the word iconic may be putting it in a -- >> that was certainly one of the things that eye one of the things we discussed that night in france, and it's one of the objectives that i set myself. yeah. the neutralization strategy in a sense was to counter the
influence i had seen as a journalist who supported the labor party and to try to ensure that we had a more level playing field where we could communicate to the public what we were trying to do and the changes we were trying to make. >> in terms of which paper was the biggest prize in terms of either neutralization or best obtaining its report. did the sun fall into that category? >> it probably felt into the category of the only one that might, as it were, shift position. i couldn't of ever have imagined the daily mail. our approach vis-a-vis the daily mail was to stop them being quite so vile. our approach with papers like "the express" would have been to engage with them, but i would
never have expected "the express" to come out for the labor party. and the broad sheets were in a slightly different space. the mirror -- i worked for the mirror for years. i couldn't imagine it not supporting the labor party. so the sun in a sense was the only one in this rather odd space. >> but i was -- although we set ourselves that objective, i don't -- i think if you'd have asked me in 1994, did i think the sun would back us in 1997, i probably would have said no. >> did you regard having to deal with mr. murdoch and his press as a necessary evil? >> well, i think it was part of the job. it was part of my job to help tony blair communicate to the public and part of that was through the media. rupert murdoch, there's no point denying is the single most important media figure. and it would have been foolish on our part not to have sought
to build some sort of relationship with him. >> did you regard having to deal with him as a necessary evil? >> well, i don't like the word evil in relation to anyone. but i saw it as a part of my job, and i saw it a part of what we sought to do. i mean, i often -- as again is clear from my diaries, it was often when i didn't particularly like having to do it. and at times nor did tony blair. i think there were various points in my diary where i say we -- including just before the election, i have written about this at some length in my witness statement where the sun asked for a piece about europe and we talked about whether to do it and we didn't in any way change policy, but we knew kind of what they wanted. and i did feel a little bit uneasy at times. but there's no point pretending tony murdoch is not an important person in the media landscape.
we dealt with him as has been well documented by all of us. >> the diary entry of yours for the 29th of january, 1997, t.b. was due to see murdoch on monday and said it angered him the meeting mattered. but it did. so that suggests -- that may be putting it too high but still a degree of distaste. would that be closer to it? >> yeah, at times, yeah. >> and also the perception rightly or wrongly that the meeting did matter because it was part and parcel of winning over his support? >> yep. >> might be better rather than to say necessary evil to say necessary obligation rather than something you went about because you wanted to do it. >> there wasn't an obligation. we didn't have to do it. we could have chosen -- the labor party for some years after the dispute had nothing to do with the murdoch papers whatever. we made an active choice to
change that approach and in the diary, he's not happy about that at times. so we made a choice, and the choice was that part of the -- if you like -- part of what new labor was trying to do was show there was no part of public opinion we were scared of. no part of public opinion we didn't think we could take our message and in opposition, getting your message through to the public is hard, if you don't have access to the press. >> isn't that a little bit why it was actually, for you, and the perception you had, an obligation? >> i'm not saying by that that it was something you couldn't not -- >> okay. i infer from obligation a sense of duty. i don't think we had the duty to do that. i think particularly it would have been -- it would have been lacking good sense not to have done it. >> it's the relationship that -- and the perception of the significance of the relationship that actually runs through the whole thing, isn't it?
>> yeah, yeah. >> given that mr. murdoch was not quite in the same place politically as new labor, did not a very factor trying to obtain his support entail to making compromises by new labor? >> i don't think so because i don't think as it were, we went out to him and said rupert would really like you to back this. and i say in my statement, far more important. and this isn't just about murdoch. because murdoch is the biggest figure and because the phone hacking has led to this inquiry. there's been a huge amount of focus on him. this goes right across the media panoply. we had strategies for all of these papers. and we had approaches out to all of these. but i certainly think with mr. murdoch, for example, you asked me in the questions in advance about the visit to the cayman island. it gave us an opportunity to, in a sense, use that event as a
broader public platform and it gave us an opportunity to set out for a huge number of editors and execute ifr ives from aroun world what new labor was about. i think it would have been crazy not to do that. >> did you have any previous dealings, as it were, with mr. murdoch when you worked for today because that was -- that paper was then in the murdoch stable, wasn't it? >> essentially we turned today from a broadly right of center paper to a broadly left of center paper and i don't ever recall rupert murdoch interfering on any level with what we were trying to do there. obviously, he spoke to richard scott from time to time, but -- and i would compare that with, for example, when i worked with robert maxwell who did have a fairly interfering approach. >> when we move forward into '95
and you begin to have personal dealings with mr. murdoch, you are doing that really from without much prior experience of him is that right? >> yeah. >> paragraph nine of your statement, 00795, you say about eight lines down that you believe the sun backed us because they knew we were going to win. we did not win because they backed us. >> yeah. >> it's part of the thinking there that mr. murdoch likes to back winners or not? >> yeah. look. i think rupert murdoch has very, very -- he has a very strong set of political beliefs. he's fundamentally right wing on most issues. i think he's somebody who -- he's a news man. he's very, very interested in stories. he's interested in powerful people.
but i think there is a sense that he likes to back winners. and i think -- as i said to you this morning it was by then, fairly obvious that we were probably going to win the election. but i do think sometimes that this point about the perceived power that people talk of newspapers that dictate elections, i just don't buy it. the last election, david cameron had the endorsement of, you know, virtually all of the newspapers and didn't get a majority. so i think we've got to be careful about this. where i think they have an influence is in the establishment of an overall agenda in which the political environment and debate then plays out. >> let me just ask you to comment on a paragraph in mr. powell's book which is page 190. he's giving his perception of what was happening at this time. our primary target was rupert
murdoch and tony went out of his way to woo him. do we agree with that? >> i don't like the word woo, but he was certainly the most important media player, without a doubt. >> and then mr. powell continues, i've been told by the sunday timss correspondent in washington that the american economist and columnist irwin steltzer was a confidante of murdoch in the best way into him. do you agree with that? >> no, i think the best way into rupert murdoch was via rupert murdoch. >> well, maybe mr. powell is putting it just a notch too high, but if mr. murdoch is not available, the best way to mr. murdoch -- i think he's suggesting is there mr. steltzer. does that overstate it or not? >> i think it probably does. i think from where we were in the uk, steltzer is a very clever, very close to rupert murdoch. but so were quite a few other people that we dealt with on almost a daily basis.
people editing newspapers here. all sorts of people. >> one would certainly have to add to the list other individuals, is that correct? >> yeah. >> tony struck up a friendship with irwin that lasted throughout his time in government, and he helped tony win over murdoch. is that true or not? >> it may be. it may be, i think it's true that irwin steltzer became someone that liked tony blair, liked what new labor was doing, and probably was part of the discussions that were going on within that particular newspaper group. but i think we were always conscious that in terms any of decision that there would been who they would back in the 1997 election, that would be -- that was a decision that would ultimately be made by one man. >> mr. powell talks about the trip to hayman island which we all know about. and continues, tony put great efforts into maintaining the relationship right throughout his time in government and
thereafter. >> yeah. and the issue of any trade-offs, mr. campbell, this is paragraph 49 of your witness statement. age 0083. can i deal with it bluntly in this way. are you able to assist the inquiry from your own knowledge of any evidence which would suggest that an express deal was made between mr. murdoch and mr. blair or mr. blair's government? >> i don't think there ever was such a deal. >> can we be clear, mr. campbell, what that answer is based on? i'm not asking you to comment. i'm just asking you from your
own knowledge. if you knew of such a deal, you would tell us because i've asked you to tell us. do you have any evidence of such deal? >> no. absolutely not. >> in terms of the possibility of implied trade-offs for unspoken supplications. paragraph 49, you refer there to the -- i think we probably asked you to look at the big, bad comment which is mr. paul keating who is then the labor prime minister in australia, wasn't he? >> yeah. >> you cover this in your diaries, volume 1 pages 247 and following. you set out part of the citat n citation. page 247.
on the 16th of july 1995, on murdoch, he told t.b., he's a big, bad bastard and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure you can be a big, bad bastard, too. you can do deals with him without ever saying a deal is done. but the only thing he cares about is his business. and the only language he respects is strength and then a little bit later on you say if he thinks you are a winner, he prefer to be with you than against you. >> yep. >> obviously, mr. campbell, you weren't taking notes while this conversation was going on, but you record it that evening in your diary. how does it come about when we see it in inverted comments? >> i mean, i did actually quite often take notes in meetings. but that -- i can remember that -- i can't remember exact words in that conversation, but i can remember paul keating's advice very clearly.
and it was -- it was good advice. i think he said later, he said you have to -- this is keating again. you have to remember with rupert, it's all about rupert. rupe cert number one, two, three and four as far as rupe cert is concerned. they overestimate the importance of their support for you, but if you can get it, have it. if you are labor you need all the help you can get to win elections. this is paul keating. he's had some considerable experience of dealing with rupert murdoch. >> yes, that's a page 249. the last paragraph, really, for the entry for that day. >> yeah. >> the difference today, overestimating the importance of their support for you, the they is a reference to the murdochs, is it? >> yeah. >> i think that relates to the point i made earlier. i think newspapers do overstate
their own importance, and i think politicians overstate it as well in terms of endorsements of elections. >> just mr. keating's, you can do deals with him without ever saying a deal is done. was he suggesting there, it's done on a nod and a wink or was he suggesting something else? >> no, i think what he's saying there is actually explained by what he goes on to say in that he's -- he needs to know, is the big bad bastard point, he needs to know that you can be as tough as you need to be. and i think that -- you see, again, i think in relation to this whole area of policy, for me, there's been all this focus on our media management techniques and so forth and, you know, endless books written about it and so forth. i don't think it's that important. what would be wrong is if there
ever were the kind of trade-off that you were talking about. and i don't think there's any evidence of such a trade-off. and on the contrary, i think that if you had talked to people who worked at sky, they would -- i think they would argue that rupert murdoch's political profile and the sort of general media neurologist surrounding him led to decisions being made with greater scrutiny upon sky than might have been other companies. i mean if you just look at the big policy decisions we took, the biggest in the media sphere was probably the rise in the bbc license fee. now they weren't terribly happy about that. i think mr. murdoch said in his evidence, not happy about that. he tried to take over manchester united and was blocked. the digital takeover, digital search, there were differences. itv, channel 5. lots of areas where you'd be hard pressed to say that the murdochs were -- and the murdoch businesses were getting a good
deal out of the labor government. >> just to what mr. keating was saying, wasn't he simply saying this, that unless mr. murdoch thinks that you, too, are a big, bad bastard, there's no point even thinking you can do a deal with him because he'll think that you're weak. the way he operates are through implied deals. isn't that the message mr. keating was trying to get across to you? >> i don't think so. i think he was saying -- what he says in that broader context that i've set out in the statement. but i certainly think that the rupert murdoch would have been -- might have been thinking that historically, he'd have, for obvious reasons, this very, very difficult relationship with the labor party. it looked like there was going to be a labor government. historically our policy positions would in a sense have gone after the murdoch empire, cl weather it was cross media ownership or whatever itig